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  • March 2009
    M T W T F S S

Brain Dump

O Blogger, Where Art Thou?

Blogging is a lot like working out at the gym. The longer you are away from the gym, the harder it is to get back into the routine. Excuses not to go become easier, the reality of muscle atrophy settles in, and you become convinced that returning to your old workout would be too painful and unsuccessful anyways. With blogging it’s more like brain atrophy, but the lame excuses are exactly the same.

Eventually you do go back to the gym. It just has to be done. The workout may not be great, but you just have to step foot in the building and do a few reps so you can start heading in the right direction again. The same is true with blogging, so below are the things I’ve had floating around in the back of my mind of late. I doubt any of them can live on their own as a full blog post, but I need to get them out of my brain so I can focus on writing something (anything) else. So here’s my brain dump, in no particular order (I’m sure my head will be sore tomorrow after this mental workout session):

Snow! Last week it got bitterly cold (for Jordan – hovering around 32 F/0 C. Brrr! And the humidity was high, so there were quite a few children (and honestly, quite a few adults) who were hoping for snow. The anxiously awaited for call cancelling school never came, but we did hear that some of the higher elevations saw some of the white stuff. Maybe next year for us.

You know you live in a small country, when . . . A shopkeeper tells you he is out of stock of something because a shipment was being held at port. You kind of figure, “Yeah right! Well at least it was a creative excuse.” You find out later that it’s because there are only 4 spots for cargo ships in the aforementioned port and all of them were being blocked because of a shipment of infected corn, causing all sorts of shipping backlogs in the entire country.

Water Woes – One of the most serious issues facing Jordan is the availability of water. Landlocked except for a very small strip of coast on the Red Sea & with very few permanent lakes or rivers, Jordan relies almost entirely on winter rainfall to renew aquifers and fill reservoirs. Oh, there’s also the Sea of Galilee, Jordan River, and Dead Sea which are shared (and disputed) with Israel. But good luck drinking out of the Dead Sea!

This year there’s been a drought here. Rainfall in the winter was significantly below normal and in January reservoirs were only at 25% of capacity – a huge problem looking forward to this summer. So at the end of January Muslim leaders put out the call for all believers in the country to pray for rain. There is actually a special Arabic phrase used for this which I have written down somewhere but can’t find right now. In February the rains finally came and for two weeks people were overjoyed by the damp, dreary, overcast weather.

In the end reservoirs were around 47% capacity which people are happy with (for some reason 50% seems to be the magic number). Muslims were speaking about how their prayers had been answered. The Christian minority were also claiming that their prayers for rain had been answered. Hmmm . . . how do you sort that one out?

Teenage Weapons Manufacturers/Smugglers: Patriots, Terrorists, or Victims?

Would you find the following stories inspiring or frightening?

  • East German teens digging a tunnel back in the 50s/60s to smuggle food and weapons into occupied East Germany and people out into free West Germany right under the noses of Communist occupiers.
  • Jewish youth working in a bullet factory in 1945 to supply the militias preparing to overthrow the British occupiers and combat Arab resistance. The factory is hidden under a laundry facility where British soldiers’ uniforms are washed and due to lack of ventilation is always at risk of exploding.
  • Christian teens in the south of Sudan helping an armed resistance movement by assembling rifles to be used against the Muslim north. The activity takes place in the back of a local school, one of the few buildings in town with enough room to store the needed parts.
  • Palestinian youth smuggling food, munitions, and parts into Gaza through tunnels from Egypt and assisting in putting together guns and bombs to fight off the Israeli occupation. One wrong move could blow up the basement bomb factories and families living above.
  • American farmboys stockpiling muskets and blackpowder in haylofts during the American Revolution at great risk of burning down the barns used for storage. None the wiser, British soldiers are regularly sheltered in the haylofts overnight when passing through town.

Well? Which story stirs your sense of pride and patriotism and which one makes you shake your head in shock and dismay? Be honest now.

Actually, only one of the stories above is 100% true, the others could very likely have happened but are more like my version of historical fiction. Based on history, but not 100% confirmed. The true story is the Israeli youth putting together bullets to fight off the British in 1945. The story was presented on a History channel documentary as if these teenagers were heroes and patriots.

The Palestinian story above is also almost 100% true. There are definitely Palestinian teens involved in the smuggling effort and stories of them involved in bomb making (but these are not confirmed). So are these Palestinian teens any less patriots than their Israeli counterparts 60 years before? Or what about the other 3 stories? They sound plausible to me. Would you laud the American farmboy, Christian Sudanese youth, and the East German teen or be shocked at their involvement in rebellious (and dangerous) activity? Are they patriots, terrorists, or victims of their particular place and time in history?

On a broader scale, what determines our sense of pride or dismay at the stories we hear of youth involved in war and warlike activities?

The Case of the Missing Branches

A couple of weeks ago I returned from school to a strange sight. Our apartment is on the ground floor, but it’s sunken below street level. Our building (like 90% of Amman) is on a hill, and we benefit from this by having a rather nice outdoor space/garden that is separated from the streets on two sides by a tall wall. In the front of our garden are two trees that stretch above the wall and provide a good amount of shade and privacy from passers-by.

When I walked down to our gate that day something seemed strange, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. However as I stepped through it was instantly obvious – our trees had been butchered! Someone had hacked off a good 50-60% of the branches! There are also some smaller trees nearby that had been “pruned” back. Where there once had been lush greenery there was a blank white wall, open sky, and a clear view down into our garden from the street. My blood boiled instantly and my mind raced trying to figure out who would have done such a thing.

I put down my bag and went in search of our building super, Joe (obviously not his real name – he’s Egyptian).

Hmmmm . . . Ok – I’m actually feeling a full blown post coming out of this one . . . maybe it’s time to quit writing and cool down a little before my brain cramps up. Sorry you had to witness this horrendous little mental workout.  Hopefully it was more painful for me than it was for you. I’ll leave you in suspense on what happened to the trees until next time.  Hmm … is it carbs or protein that’s best after a mental workout?

2 Responses

  1. I’m very sorry about the trees. That is very sad.

  2. […] including a paradigm-shifting way to think about Palestinian gun smuggling and bomb making.  Two key questions: Are they patriots, terrorists, or victims of their particular place and time in […]

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